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New mental health support to roll out across England

Published: 16/05/2016
  • 16 local services selected to partner with charity Think Ahead to train talented graduates as social workers
  • Scheme aims to enable people with mental health problems to lead more fulfilling lives by improving their social circumstances
  • Over 23 graduates applied for each place on the programme, which is supported by £12m from the Department of Health


16 innovative community mental health services have been selected to pioneer a new approach to improving support for people with mental illness, it has been announced today. The organisations are spread across England, with six in London, four in the South East, four in the Midlands, one in Yorkshire, and one in the North East.

The NHS and Local Authority services, which successfully applied to partner with charity Think Ahead, will provide on-the-job training for highly-talented graduates and career-changers to become mental health social workers.

The announcement coincides with Mental Health Awareness Week, which is this year emphasising the importance of relationships in mental wellbeing. One in three families now include someone with a mental health problem, and Think Ahead’s participants will be trained to work with people to improve social circumstances—such as relationships, support networks, and living arrangements—that have deep impacts on mental health.

The Think Ahead programme opened for applications last year and immediately became one of the country’s most competitive graduate career options, with 23 applications for each place. For this first intake, the charity has selected 96 participants from over 2300 applicants. It recently announced an additional £10m funding from the Department of Health to support two more cohorts beginning in 2017 and 2018, bringing its overall funding to over £12m.

Mental health teams across the country applied to partner with Think Ahead. The chosen services were selected based on their commitment to working on the social aspects of mental ill-health, and their ability to provide a structured and supported environment for Think Ahead’s intensive training approach. They will welcome the Think Ahead participants in September this year.

Mental Health Minister Alistair Burt said:

“Mental health social work is a highly skilled, complex career — and we are delighted that these winning areas will help Think Ahead attract the brightest and best into the profession.

“Our funding will help talented graduates and career-changers support thousands of people to lead more independent and fulfilling lives.”

Stella Creasy, MP for Walthamstow, said:


“It’s great to see local services in Walthamstow working in collaboration with Think Ahead to add to our ranks of talented mental health social workers.
“It’s important that we continue to find innovative ways to support vulnerable people, particularly in the challenging area of mental health.”

Charles Walker, MP for Broxbourne, said:

“Mental health has too long been a poor relation of physical health, and I’m very pleased to see Think Ahead bringing more support to people living with mental illness in Broxbourne.

“Mental health social workers play a vital role in the community, enabling people to develop the relationships, support networks, and activities that can build their mental wellbeing.”

Claire Murdoch, NHS National Mental Health Director and Chief Executive of Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, said:


“We’re proud partners of Think Ahead. All my years of NHS experience have underlined the importance of social workers to mental health; you cannot get by without them.

“This scheme can make a lasting difference to creating strength and pride in this great profession. CNWL benefits from it, so do social workers and that’s good for patients now and tomorrow.”

John Short, Chief Executive of Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“As a qualified mental health social worker, I’ve seen first-hand the incredible impact that social work can have on the mental wellbeing of individuals, families, and communities.

“Our new partnership with Think Ahead will attract more people into this challenging but rewarding line of work, helping to improve support for those in Birmingham and Solihull who use our mental health services.”

Mark Trewin, Service Manager at Bradford Metropolitan District Council, said:

“I am excited to welcome Think Ahead participants to our integrated community mental health teams in Bradford and Airedale.

“Social work has a key role in supporting people who rely on mental health services. Bradford Council can provide a stimulating and varied learning environment for Think Ahead participants, with our partners in Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust.”

Ella Joseph, Joint Chief Executive of Think Ahead, said:

“We are thrilled to be working with a brilliant range of NHS Trusts and Local Authorities up and down the country, who are committed to the importance of social work in mental health.

“We will be working closely with these partners to provide excellent training for Think Ahead’s participants, so that they can make a real difference to the lives of people living with mental illness."